Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Paula, for that wonderful introduction. I really want to welcome you, the distinguished guests here, members of the diplomatic corps, of our own Congress, from across the administration, it's really a pleasure to welcome you here to the Department of State.
I'd like to give special thanks to all of our distinguished honorees who have journeyed here from far and wide so that we could celebrate their courage and their commitment to women's rights. Thank you for joining us today.
Tomorrow is International Women's Day and it is a time to remember the sacrifices of our forebearers who did so much to foster a more equal place in the world for women. We must continue their charge for change. And one way that our Department is helping to do that is with the announcement today of the Secretary of State's Award for International Women of Courage. This award honors women leaders worldwide who are peacefully improving their communities and creating more hopeful futures for their sons and their daughters.
Today, we celebrate the courage of ten extraordinary women who are joining me here on the stage. They're from nearly every region of the world, women who not only make their fellow citizens proud but who are the international defenders of what President Bush has called the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.
These women are pioneers who are making a difference in the fields of politics and law, education and human rights, business, science and journalism. They are voices for freedom who continue the work of brave women reformers everywhere, like Aung San Suu Kyi who still remains under house arrest in Burma.
We know that in many countries women's journey for equal rights and equal opportunity is not an easy one. It was not easy for women of our country, either. In fact, it took more than 130 years before America's founding promise that all men are created equal was also a promise that women could vote, too.
The same ideals though that guided America's earliest women of courage now lead our country into the world to combat the dehumanization of women in every form. We will not accept that women and girls are sold into modern day slavery. We will not accept that women and girls are denied an education. We will not accept so-called honor killings and we'll do everything that we can to end forced early marriages. And we will work to improve health care opportunities for all women so that they can help to build a more hopeful future for themselves and for their own children.
Continuing this work of women's empowerment requires dedication and commitment and passion. The women who we honor today embody all of these virtues and more. It is not possible to think about democracy without thinking about the empowerment of women. One of the nicest gifts that I've ever gotten was a t-shirt from the women of Kuwait shortly after they were given the right to vote, and it said, "Half a Democracy is No Democracy at All."
That is the spirit that we celebrate here today with all of you who work for democratic rights and equality, but also who work against oppression and against prejudice every day of your lives. To all of you in your journey for a better future, I hope that you know that you will always have a friend in the United States of America. You are truly women of courage. You are the future leaders of your country, and I thank you very much for the courage that you exhibit every day. You make us all very, very proud. Thank you
Speech from http://gos.sbc.edu/r/rice4.html.